Tag Archives: Health Care

Medicare for All Advocates Take to the Streets of Over 50 US Cities

“How can we have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when we live in constant fear of illness, bankruptcy, or homelessness because of the outrageous for-profit healthcare system?”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-24-2021

People marched in more than 50 U.S. cities on Saturday to demand Medicare for All. (Photo: @Jaybefaunt/Twitter)

Just days before the 56th anniversary of Medicare being signed into law, advocates for creating a public, universal health insurance program in the United States to replace the largely private, for-profit system held marches in more than 50 cities across the country on Saturday.

The day of action was organized by a coalition of over 100 groups, from Mainers for Accountable Leadership, the Chicago Teachers Union, and Sunrise Movement Seattle to various arms of Democratic Socialists of America, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), and Our Revolution. Continue reading

Share Button

Democrats Urged to Reject Latest GOP Attempt to Hold Social Security ‘Hostage’

“Lindsey Graham and his fellow Republicans will stop at nothing to cut the American people’s earned Social Security and Medicare benefits.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-2021

Senator Lindsey Graham. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday said he would be willing to vote to raise the federal debt ceiling in exchange for a policy that could result in cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a proposed trade-off that progressive advocacy groups implored Democrats to reject.

With members of Congress staring down an August deadline to increase the debt limit—the amount of money the federal government is legally permitted to borrow to meet its financial obligations—Graham (R-S.C.) told Bloomberg that he could bring himself to vote yes on a debt ceiling hike if Democrats agree to legislation establishing commissions tasked with crafting Social Security and Medicare “reforms.” Continue reading

Share Button

‘This Is a Scandal’: Documents Reveal Obama’s EPA Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking in 2011

“We still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations. Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without consequence?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2021

A fracking rig behind a housing development Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/CC

Between 2012 and 2020, fossil fuel corporations injected potentially carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or chemicals that can degrade into PFAS, into the ground while fracking for oil and gas, after former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency approved their use despite agency scientists’ concerns about toxicity.

The EPA’s approval in 2011 of three new compounds for use in oil and gas drilling or fracking that can eventually break down into PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” was not publicized until Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) obtained internal records from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing the files.

According to PSR’s new reportFracking with “Forever Chemicals, oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have since 2012 pumped toxic chemicals that can form PFAS into more than 1,200 wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming.

While the Times noted that the newly released documents constitute some of the earliest evidence of the possible presence of PFAS in fracking fluids, PSR’s report warns that “the lack of full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas operations raises the potential that PFAS could have been used even more extensively than records indicate, both geographically and in other stages of the oil and gas extraction process, such as drilling, that precede the underground injections known as fracking.”

“It’s very disturbing to see the extent to which critical information about these chemicals is shielded from public view,” Barbara Gottlieb, PSR’s Environment & Health Program director, said Monday in a press release. “The lack of transparency about fracking chemicals puts human health at risk.”

As the Times reported:

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, EPA scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The EPA scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The EPA identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” Dusty Horwitt, a researcher at PSR, told the newspaper.

In a statement released Monday, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, called the PSR report “alarming,” and said it “confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely.”

As PSR notes, PFAS—highly potent toxins that accumulate in the body and persist in the environment—pose a threat to human and environmental well-being. Negative health effects linked to PFAS include low infant birth weights, disruptions of the immune and reproductive systems, and cancer.

“The potential that these chemicals are being used in oil and gas operations should prompt regulators to take swift action to investigate the extent of this use, pathways of exposure, and whether people are being harmed,” said Linda Birnbaum, board-certified Ph.D. toxicologist and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Hauter added that “this says nothing of the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.”

According to the Times:

In a 2016 report, the EPA identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same EPA report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.

Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.

“The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago,” said Hauter, “and all these years later, President Joe Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.”

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country,” Hauter said. “Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight.”

Earlier this month, whistleblowers at the EPA accused the Biden administration of continuing the “war on science,” with managers at the agency allegedly modifying reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

As Common Dreams reported, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a formal complaint on behalf of four scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, demanding an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are safer.

Calling Monday’s revelations about the Obama administration’s decision to greenlight the use of PFAS in fracking “a scandal that should lead every nightly news program,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “we still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations.”

“Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without conscience?” he asked.

Hauter called on Biden “to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands,” adding that “his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
Share Button

The time for a four-day week has arrived

A new experiment from Iceland confirms what many of us have long suspected: reducing working hours improves wellbeing and productivity

By Jack Kellam.  Published 7-8-2021 by openDemocracy

Photo: Rawpixel Ltd/flickr/CC

Over the past six years, Iceland has been quietly conducting a major economic experiment. More than 2,500 public sector employees – representing over 1% of the country’s entire working population – reduced their working hours from 40 hours per week to 35 or 36 hours, with no loss of pay.

Trials of shorter working weeks are not new: in recent years a number of ‘four-day week’ experiments have taken place around the world – from Microsoft’s trial in Japan to Unilever’s experiment in New Zealand. But Iceland’s two trials, which took place between 2015 and 2021 among employees of the country’s national government and Reykjavík City Council, are unparalleled in terms of scale and scope. Progress was meticulously monitored by Icelandic researchers, which generated an unrivalled amount of evidence on the impact of shorter working hours. This week the key findings were published in a joint report published by Alda (Association for Sustainable Democracy) and Autonomy. Continue reading

Share Button

War on Science Persists Within Biden EPA as Staffers Allege Chemical Reports Altered

“Inside EPA, scientific integrity has become an oxymoron and a cure will require a complete overhaul.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-7-2021

Photo: DarTar, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Four scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency are alleging that the “war on science” is continuing under the Biden administration, with managers at the agency altering reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

The government watchdog Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a formal complaint Friday on behalf of the scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, calling for an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are not toxic. Continue reading

Share Button

Scientist Says BC Heat Wave Caused Over 1 Billion Tidal Creatures to Cook to Death

The estimate follows record-breaking temperatures in the Canadian province.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-6-2021

A mussel bed on Vancouver Island. (Photo: Stephen Bentsen/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s “a frightening warning sign,” said one observer.

“Heartbreaking,” another commented.

“Can we now mobilize en masse to save all Earthly beings?” asked another.

Those were some of the responses to new reporting by the CBC on how last week’s extreme heatwave that gripped British Columbia may have led to the deaths of over one billion intertidal animals like mussels and starfish that inhabit the Salish Sea coastline. Continue reading

Share Button

Biden EPA Lining Up With Chemical Industry Against Push to Curb Microplastics: Greenpeace

“While you might expect Trump’s EPA to align with the oil and chemical industry against protections for the American people from potentially harmful plastic chemicals, the Biden administration must do better.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-28-2021

Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program/flickr/CC

A Greenpeace investigation revealed Monday that the Biden administration appears sympathetic to oil and chemical industry giants—not the public, scientists, and public health advocates—regarding a push in Europe to curb the use of microplastics in everyday products.

According to a report by Unearthed Greenpeace UK’s investigative journalism unit, a senior policy advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named Karissa Kovner exchanged emails with the American Chemical Council (ACC) in April 2019 regarding a proposal by the Swiss government to list microplastic UV-328 in the Stockholm Convention, the U.N.’s global treaty on chemicals that don’t easily break down in nature. Continue reading

Share Button

US and Israel Vote ‘No’ as 184 Nations Condemn American Blockade of Cuba

“The U.N. vote… on Cuba was a chance for President Biden to show global leadership,” said CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. “He failed miserably.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-23-2021

New York City, April 2021. Photo: The All-Nite Images/flickr/CC

Peace and human rights advocates joined the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday in their annual condemnation of the United States’ disastrous economic embargo against Cuba.

For the 29th straight year, the members of the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution demanding an end to the 60-year U.S. economic blockade on Cuba. This year, 184 nations voted in favor of the resolution, while the U.S. and Israel voted against it. Three nations—Brazil, Colombia, and Ukraine—abstained. Continue reading

Share Button

Over 30,000 US Veterans of Post-9/11 Wars Have Killed Themselves Since 2001

“As we come closer to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we must reflect on the mental health cost of the Global War on Terror.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-21-2021

New research released Monday shows the post-9/11 wars launched by the U.S. military since 2001 have resulted in over 30,000 suicides by active duty American solders and veterans—over four times the number killed in combat operations.

According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project—established in 2010 to account for the loss of lives and taxpayer dollars spent on U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—an estimated 30,177 veterans and service members have killed themselves over the last nearly two decades, compared with 7,057 members of the military who have been killed in combat. Continue reading

Share Button

‘Bolsonaro Out!’: Massive Protests as Brazil’s Covid-19 Death Toll Tops 500,000

“We are on the street to defend our country, our people, our lives, our culture, our education, our economy. We can no longer die of Covid.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-20-2021

Rio de Janeiro – Brazilians organizing for the biggest protests in years. Photo: Imediata/Twitter

As Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll surpassed 500,000 on Saturday, at least hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of more than 400 cities across the nation and around the world to blame President Jair Bolsonaro for the grim pandemic milestone and demand his ouster.

Chanting and holding signs with slogans including “Bolsonaro Out,” “500,000 Deaths, It’s His Fault,” and “Vaccines Now,” protesters called for the resignation or impeachment of the far-right president. Demonstrators also implored the government to ramp up vaccination efforts. Continue reading

Share Button